IAC Experience of a Masters Student

I am Sarah Cader, a Master’s student in Astronomy at Osmania University, Hyderabad. and I attended the SGC & IAC 2021, in October and got to present my research work. I am the Director of Operations at WoAA India.

Space has always been my area, quite frankly, hunting for meteors with my pet cat (Bru) is one of my favorite things to do. So, when I got selected to attend the Space Generation Congress 2021, I was ecstatic. SGC is specifically tailored for students and young professionals in the space sector to better sharpen and ready the next generation of space leaders, organized annually by the SGAC. I was one of the 150 delegates selected to attend the SGC 2021. I got to meet people working in space law, astrobiology, space psychology, and various other fields within the space sector. My team and I worked with the NASA Planetary defense coordination office (PDCO) scientists and proposed a mitigation/prevention plan in case of a potential asteroid attack. It was a great experience working on a real-life scenario, with actual scientists, and making friends along the way from all over the world was definitely the best part.

I attended the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2021, in person, last month in Dubai. Dubai is surreal, so futuristic with aesthetically pleasing skylines and perfect sunsets. IAC 2021 Dubai was my first work trip, where I was set to present my first research paper. Meeting people interested in the same fields as you, getting to see their research works, looking around the grand exhibition halls with all the major space companies and organizations, grabbing all the freebies, and meeting Astronauts, IAC 2021 was the place to be! I got to meet superstar astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, and UAE's first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, and the first hijabi astronaut, Nora Al Matrooshi. As a hijabi myself, she is a huge inspiration to me.

I presented my research work on the mental health and well-being of students in the space sector, on the last day of the IAC 2021. Students in the space sector experience stress and anxiety due to many reasons, with academic requirements being a major factor. Academic stress faced by the students is growing and during the pandemic, it has gotten way worse. My research work focussed on this issue and we were able to assess the stress, anxiety, and depression signs of space sector students with a standard psychological tool with 224 students from all over the world taking part in our study. The implications of our research highlighted the fact that educational institutions must provide proper, helpful mental well-being support to students and acknowledge the issues faced by them. I consider myself, an advocate for student mental health, and I sincerely hope that improvements are made to benefit the students in the space sector.

Presenting my research, on a topic I'm very passionate about at an international conference like IAC was an excellent experience. The space sector is truly a world within itself.

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